The High Peaks Initiative RCP was excited to receive a Jessie B. Cox Trust Regional Conservation Partnership Grant for $20,000 back in June. The program supports "capacity-building projects that increase collaborative conservation campaigns among regional organizations", which is something that can benefit all conservation organizations. The value of collaboration for conservation organizations has been proven again and again, and it's something that our RCP has been engaged in for several years. The size of the Maine landscape and the lack of local authority means that, for community-based and local land trusts in the inland areas of Maine, collaboration is essential for our survival. Most recently, this has enabled the RCP to help complete the Crocker Mountain and Orbeton Stream projects which were spearheaded by The Trust for Public Land.
By partnering with a large, national conservation organization, the High Peaks Initiative RCP was able to complete these important, large conservation projects. But that does not mean that, as an RCP, we were on firm ground as a Conserving RCP. The size of the territory we work in, combined with low population and lack of traditional government institutions in the High Peaks area, meant that we were in danger of slipping back to a maturing or even an emerging RCP. That's when we decided to get together on one of the program criteria of the Regional Conservation Partnership Grants: a reboot of our conservation priority plan/map with focal areas. Instead of being the typical conservation priorities map based on what our RCP conservation organizations input as high priority, we would go out into the local communities where the individual RCP organizations work, and prioritize our findings based on that data. Thus the idea of the High Peak Gazetteer - for which the High Peaks Initiative RCP received the grant - was launched.
The individual organizations that are partnering on the High Peaks Gazetteer are the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, High Peaks Initiative, The Wilderness Society and the Northern Forest Center. All of the organizations have different missions that focus on issues from land conservation itself to recreational trails to wildlife and ecological habitat. For this project, we were able to find common ground around the mission of our RCP in order to work towards fulfilling the mission of our individual organizations. Thanks to the Jessie B. Cox Trust Regional Conservation Partnership Grant, we are able to launch the project and sustain our RCP for future projects.